Margaret Beckett: There is no magic solution to end carbon dependency


The evidence of dangerous climate change, as regularly reported in your newspaper, is becoming ever more stark. The devastating impacts that this could have on developing nations should encourage us all to step up our efforts, as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, rightly said yesterday. As a government, we recognise that we have a leadership role in responding to this. We have played that role very successfully. I am immensely proud of the action that the UK has taken, internationally and at home.

The Government's Climate Change Programme, launched yesterday, sets out our future leadership plans. It will keep Britain at the forefront of action to tackle climate change. It sets out an ambitious plan to secure global agreement for action to stabilise the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions that we need to meet this challenge. It also outlines measures that will affect all the major sectors and sources of emissions in the UK. And last but not least it will enable individuals to do more to reduce their emissions. Action at all three levels is essential. We will press on with them all.

Domestically, the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme, which encourages companies which can reduce emissions to do so cheaply and to sell unused allowances, will remain a central feature of our climate change policy. We will also continue to provide a strong package of support, advice and information to help businesses improve their energy efficiency, building on the announcements made by the Chancellor in his Budget last week. We will also encourage the uptake of biofuels in petrol, tightening building regulations and take further measures to boost household energy efficiency, helping people to cut their energy use, and their bills.

As a result of this programme, the UK is on track to double the emissions savings required under Kyoto. Our programme will also see CO2 emissions cut by between 15 and 18 per cent by 2010, close to our domestic goal of a 20 per cent cut. But we want to go further. We remain committed to the 20 per cent goal. There is more that the Government can and will do to meet our goal. Work is being carried out within and across departments to ensure that the Government's contribution to tackling climate change continues. As the Prime Minister said in his speech last night in New Zealand, new measures will be launched as part of the energy review and future budgets.

I know this target is regarded by many as very important. I share that view. But the task of meeting that target has become more difficult, as a result of greater-than-anticipated rates of economic growth and higher energy prices that have increased coal use. This is an international phenomenon from which the UK cannot isolate itself. It has led to rising emissions across the developed world. But we still believe that this target can be achieved.

Ultimately it requires action by us all. Government alone cannot turn off the lights in homes and insulate domestic lofts. But we can and will strengthen the policy framework to encourage personal action. The Prime Minister reiterated that we all have a responsibility to act in our daily lives. In the choices we make - whether it's in the energy we use at home, or how we move around - we can each make a contribution towards tackling this global challenge. The Government will encourage individuals as citizens, consumers and business people to take the action that they often want to take to help us meet our goals and respond positively to the challenge of climate change.

This is not about passing the buck. This Government will continue to play a leadership role, at home and globally.

Tackling climate change is not just about taking easy options. For government, for business, and for individuals there are hard choices that we must all confront. There is no magic solution or silver bullet that will overnight transform our economy and each of our lives from one that is dependent on carbon. Our opponents argue that "more should be done". But the UK has done more than any other country. We will continue to do so.

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